How to Eliminate Grocery Store Meltdowns

No matter how many years have passed since our kids were little, every mom has a vivid grocery store meltdown story.  That is our kid’s meltdown, not ours.  Well, both are a viable possibility!  When I see little children having tantrums at the checkout or hear loud wailing 3 aisles over, all I have is compassion.  Even on a good day, packing children in and out while focusing on the task at hand really is a lot of work!

My daughter was sweet and easy, but, my son offered me a strong dose of ‘reality therapy.’  He was like a wild animal throwing things and running off.  One time when he ran out of sight a mom asked me, “Are you worried?”  I said, “No, if anybody took him, they’ll bring him right back!”  This Christmas, I noticed a mom’s cart was full before she started.  The baby laid in his car seat in the big basket, her toddler sat in the front seat, and her little son walked along side.  Eventually, the cart grew into a mountain of food about to experience an avalanche.  Looking back, that would have been a great cover picture on ‘Super Mom Magazine!’  In a thousand ways, I bet you’ve earned that spot too.

We’ve all had our share of grocery store trials.  In an ideal world, you would leave the kids home, bring a magazine and treat yourself to a little R & R in your favorite café before you rush down the grocery aisles.  Ahhhh, I feel the stress leaving already!  But, if you can’t do that:

  • Look for a store with day care.  I would drive twice as far on days I knew I needed the extra help.
  • Try lowering your expectations of what you can accomplish with kids along (like trying to read the labels or hunt for all the best deals).
  • Teach them your expectations before you enter.  Lay out their rewards and consequences for appropriate behavior and then follow through.  (I know, easy to say, harder to do)!
  • Avoid succumbing to whining by giving them treats.  Although a mouth full of food will quiet them temporarily, that brief moment of peace comes at a price.  Reinforcing wrong behavior has the same results as throwing your dog scraps from the table.
  • Keep the kids separated. Teach them to hold on to opposite sides of the cart to avoid all manner of annoying each other.
  • Give them jobs to do like finding their favorite cereal or putting 5 apples in a bag.  When I would say, “I need your help” my son went from throwing objects to being a focused helper!
  • Leave the store if it’s not working.  I know that’s hard for us ‘task oriented’ people, but, it’s not worth the anger and fumes were exhaling at our kids.
  • Give them some love. Sometimes the more focused you are on your mission the more they intensify their demands.  Give them your undivided attention for a few minutes and tend to their needs with eye contact, a smile, and a listening ear.  You’ll be back to shopping soon enough.  After all, they matter more than a few groceries anyway.

Good job, Mom, (and dad too).  I wish I had a medal for you.

Cheering you on,



olivia and stephanieStephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most. Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…    

“You’re doing a great job!”



  1. Leslie Davis says:

    Love the reminder to slow down and set realistic expectation!

  2. Stephanie Allen says:

    Thanks Leslie, I know … speeding up is second nature. I need to be reminded too. Glad you’re on-line and reading my posts. I hope your encouraged!

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